Monday, April 10, 2017

Peter Bruntnell, Nos Da Comrade

If you revel in the serious guitar jangle and outstanding songwriting of post-Beatledom, like with the Smithereens, XTC, or some selected others, you will be very happy to hear Peter Bruntnell's new album Nos Da Comrade (MVDAudio MVD9722A).

Keep in mind this is achingly alternate music. It may be bad enough that it may be the end of the world, but Peter is going to miss it--he will arrive late, or in other words not at all.

There is a hint of retro but it is also right now. Peter sings the lead vocals, plays guitar along with Dave Little and James Walbourne. It is strumming and picking tied properly to the song and so you do not sit up and exclaim, "Hey, those guitars!" There is some effective soloing here and there in a Neil Youngish way, to try and tie to a name.

In the same way Little and Walbourne's keys are firmly harnessed to the demands of the songs, as are Peter Noone's bass and Mick Clews' drums.

The tracks do what they do with near perfection and in the end you (or at least I) want to hear this one again, and then again.

Song connoisseurs of the contemporary rock landscape take note. I am very pleased with this music. Maybe you will be, too? I think so. Give it a chance!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

William Parker and Stefano Scodanibbio, Bass Duo

For those with keen ears or with the wish to acquire them, there are important releases coming out that give the hearer a wealth of subtle and strongly musical depth, texture and immediacy. One such release features bass master and father figure of the current New York free jazz scene, Maestro William Parker in a live duo performance with Italian bass master Stefano Scodanibbio. Bass Duo (Centering Recordings 1013) is the matter-of-fact name of the album.

It is a documentation of their very fruitful collaborative appearance at the Udine&Jazz 2008 Festival in Udine, Italy. It marks the only appearance of the two together. Given Scodanibbio's too early passing in 2012, there will not be any other. But what they did that day together gives us a great deal.

Scodanibbio like Parker was bassist, composer and leading light--in the former case was central to the new music scene as contrabass exponent in advanced works by the likes of Xenakis, Ferneyhough, Globokar, etc.

In many ways this duo reminds us that, certainly in terms of technique and expanded sonic extensions if not in various other ways, there is synergy between the most advanced free improvisation proponents and those who open up parallel universes of sounds in the avant new music sphere.

Mark Dresser in the liner notes draws out the differences in approach that mark the different camps. I will not reproduce that here but refer you to the CD jacket itself.

William and Stefano transcend those differences by close listening and free inventions that set off the mutual dedication both contrabassists have to the sound color and weighted attack expressive possibilities of the modern instrument. So both make excellent interplay out of extended bowing in all its varied richness, harmonics, sounding in various positions bowed above and below the bridge, bowing attack, etc.

They also create some exhilarating double pizzicato passages.

One hears inside the notes to a microscopic sound world when William and Stefano get rolling. Fully getting it demands a focused, concentrated listen. The effort pays off as one contemplates how complete the instrument can be, and with two masters in good form here, we hear a nearly orchestral variance of tone and timbre.

This is music bass players will be fascinated by, for sure, but it is an all-encompassing listen as well for anybody who opens up to it.

Stefano Scodanibbio was and William Parker still is in the handful of bass pioneers, breathtaking virtuosos of the new. This summit meeting reminds us how much MUSIC can come out of the creative virtuoso contrabass greats when allowed free space and time, a sympathetic audience and the inspiration of the moment.

It is some fantastic interplay, a high point of contrabass duo possibilities. Get it if you can and listen carefully. You will go places.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Terra Guitarra, Of Sea & Stars

Terra Guitarra is a well-burnished mix of acoustic classical guitars in a modern synthesis of the flamenco and South American guitar traditions and a contemporary sort of progressive tunefulness, oft times in a minor mode. Their new album Of Sea & Stars (Earthsign Records 0020) gives us captivating mood music that will appeal to guitar-critical listeners as well as a general audience seeking something mellow.

What distinguishes this from a faux ambiant new age typicality is the pronounced sophistication of the melodic content and the artfulness of the guitars. Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli are responsible for the attractive multiple guitar parts as well as the accompanying instruments (bass, drums, keys, cedar flute, hand percussion).

The result is a very listenable set foregrounded by some fine guitar craftsmanship.

Check it out!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Velkro, Too Lazy to Panic

Put Velkro's album Too Lazy to Panic (Clean Feed 404) on and within seconds you enter a universe of sound made riveting by guitarist Stephan Meidell's rich feedback-laced sound along with its more pure-toned counterpart. Then drummer Luis Candelas gets your ear with his rich, rock dense but free pulsating drumming. Finally we note saxman Bostjan Simon strong entrance on sax.

From that point on we take a ride into extraordinarily attractive outside, electronically rich hybrids of psychedelia and free jazz. It's an album that got me to mutter "wow" from the first hearing on.

Guitar pioneering fans will no doubt take to Meidell's hugely sensitive feel for sound and attack. It is something you cannot miss. But then the trio moves forward continuously into fascinating and (for me) riveting zones, intricate and strong, bracing and exciting.

I reviewed and appreciated their earlier Don't Wait for the Revolution on these pages. Type "Velkro" into the search box above for that.

This music travels far beyond ordinary words and must be listened to more than talked about.

I am in a very happy place hearing this album. You with a sense of adventure will no doubt feel the same way if you give this one a chance.

A real discovery! Get this platter onto your system as soon as you can--and feel it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Nick Millevoi, Desertion

I am running a little late thanks to a technically difficult cold season. Now it is time to catch up. First in that series is the recent album by cosmic guitarist Nick Millevoi--Desertion (ShhPuma 024).

It's an excellent set from Nick, the always game Jamie Saft on organ and piano, Johnny DeBlase on acoustic and electric bass and Ches Smith on drums.

This one has a tune orientation with some very catchy ones from Nick. The overall balance is as expected a sort of jazz-rock psychedelic approach, but a bit more structured and less overtly power-driven than some of Nick's earlier albums (I've reviewed a fair number here). But what that does is open things up for the harmonic-melodic aspects of the Millevoi approach. It shows us that his "anything goes" openness can include the compositional realm with very worthwhile results.

This album gives you a good chance to hear Nick's inventive guitar outness in all its fullness, but in ways that will gain him perhaps a wider audience. It is a somewhat more thoughtful context, but not more "commercial" for that.

Everybody is tuned in for the date and the more you listen, the more things you hear. This is first-rate Millevoi and a great listen all around. Check it out.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Michael Blum Quartet, Chasin' Oscar, A Tribute to Oscar Peterson

Something unusual today, a tribute to jazz piano great Oscar Peterson by a very hip guitarist, Michael Blum and his quartet, on an album entitled Chasin' Oscar (Michael Blum Music).

Some swinging contemporary jazz is what we get, most of the music associated directly or indirectly with Oscar. Blum much of the time has adopted Oscar's recorded solo from each tune and made it live for guitar. He is seconded very nicely by pianist Brad Smith, bassist Jim Stinnett (whom Blum cites as an important teacher and mentor) and drummer Dom Moio.

Michael also sings on "Tenderly" and that sounds good as well.

This is music of high artistry, from a guitarist who has absorbed Peterson's ethos and made it over in his own image and sound design.

I must say I enjoy this album thoroughly! Take a listen.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mark Whitfield, Grace


As we proceed through our musical lives, we generally find ourselves within earshot of a  number of artists who do things that catch our ears, that somehow express a simpatico musical vision that speaks to us. Guitarist Mark Whitfield and his new album Grace (Marksman Productions 8.2268533147-3) resonates with me in this way. It's him and his well accomplished guitar, his sons Davis and Mark, Jr. on piano and drums, respectively, and Yasushi Nakamura on bass. Vocalist Sy Smith drops in for vocals on the title cut.

The music is in the straight-ahead zone, alternately swinging and funking its way through some attractive Mark Whitfield originals (with help from Dave on one, lyrics by Sy on the title cut).

Everyone is in the pocket, Davis plays some hip piano, but in the end it is the considered fluency and inventiveness of leader Mark himself that wins the day.

Good-o~